We had the good fortune of connecting with Christine Lau and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Christine, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Growing up, I have always loved to draw and make things, like knitting scarves and sewing bags. At the time, I didn’t think I could pursue a career with it. After high school, while I was majoring in business, I did take a few art and photography classes. It was then that I rediscovered my love of art and design. Those classes were the catalyst that took me on the adventure of taking more art and design classes. I also reached out to my sister (who’s an architect) to talk about the possible variety of art and design majors that are available. She then introduced me to the discipline of Product Design, offered as a major at Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA). With that discovery, I knew it was time to pursue my journey into design.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I started clau in 2013. My background was product/industrial design and I’ve always dreamt of having my own line of soft good designs. To realize those dreams, I started learning hand stitching and made bags and small leather goods for myself as a hobby after my 9 to 5 industrial design job. I also had trouble finding a bag that fitted my needs, looked timeless, but functional. Along with other reasons, and with encouragement from family, friends, and mentors; I decided to take the next step. I debuted with a small line of leather goods at my friend’s store on their opening day. The first sale brought a lot of satisfaction and motivation to continue. After the event, a few more goods were sold at the store as well a few e-mail orders. All of which gave me validation that I was on the right path. I then expanded my reach to a few stock lists and doing pop-ups and shows. I focused primarily in Los Angeles area and just recently expanded to San Francisco area through various shows. Building momentum from each event, show, and sale, I ventured a little more. As with most small businesses, the road was fairly bumpy. I have to wear multiple hats for Clau. I am both the designer and the maker. The responsibilities ranged from ideations, hand cutting the materials, stitching it together, and everything else in between. I had to tackle creating my own packaging as well as packing and sending out the goods to fulfill orders. Planning out pop-ups and shows and managing the budget was all in a day’s work. It’s not rocket science difficult, but it’s no walk in the park. Since I hand-stitch every piece (even down to creating my signature stitch on my info cards), it generally takes a bit of time to finish a piece. That being said, I’m very proud of the craftsmanship and design of my pieces. Knowing that my customers will be happy and that their bags will last because of the quality, gives me a lot of satisfaction. With my product design background, I designed my pieces to be functional while still keeping the user in mind. My approach was to create balanced proportions, sourcing quality material, and making sure the weight and texture work with the overall design. For example, my k(not) backpack/dual bag was designed and inspired by my clothing designer friend, Jill who bikes to her studio. I wanted to design a backpack that is more streamlined and sleek, able to be transformed from a backpack to a crossbody. I envision her biking to an after-work event, where she can easily transform her backpack into a crossbody for a dressier look. I hand-stitch (specifically saddle stitch) each bag because it creates a stronger construction than a machine would not be able to achieve. In the event a stitch does unravel, it will only unravel one to a few stitches, and that can be easily repaired. Each signature clau knot, from tiny ones on my necklace to the larger ones on my bag, are all handwoven by me. And while it does take longer to create each piece, knot and good, the end result by being made by hand means each piece is unique and one of a kind, it’s wabi-sabi.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I love exploring different restaurants and cafes, so it will definitely be a day long outing. Starting in Monterey Park (my residence), we would start the day off with Hong Kong style breakfast brunch at Alice’s Kitchen (in Monterey Park) for some congee, Hong Kong style rice rolls, pineapple buns, and a cup of hot yin yeung (coffee/milk tea). Hopefully after good few hours after breakfast and maybe a brisk walk (or two), lunch kicks off with banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and maybe a pack of the pandan honeycomb cake from Banh Mi My Tho in Alhambra. Refreshments are always necessary, so we’ll pick up teas from Bopomofo Cafe and head to Lacey Park for a picnic and a stroll (calories don’t just magically disappear) for some fresh air and vitamin D. After that, some shopping is a needed recipe for this adventure. We’ll venture out to Los Feliz to make a stop at Carol Young Undesigned. It’s a boutique filled with Carol’s line of clothing where you can find her designs filled with unique pleated fabrics and flattering silhouettes, along with other artists’ goods (you can find some clau products there too). That’s just the first stop, we’ll then head over to Silver Lake shops like OK, Yolk, Maison Kitsune, and more. The fifth course of this day will be dinner. Heading out to Sherman Oaks, we’ll be dining at Anajak Thai (my friend’s family Thai restaurant), for some lab tots, Thai fried chicken, branzino, and pairing with a few glasses of delicious curated wine. For the bonus round, we’ll head back to where we started, Monterey Park for dessert. Our last stop will be at Big Softee (soft serve ice cream). We’ll check the board for the newest flavor of the month or maybe go with the staple flavors. A few of my favorites are tofu flower, pandan soy, and mango jasmine. I have an instagram (@claueats) if you want to see more of my exploration of different restaurants and cafes and some home cooking as well. Hope you enjoyed following my clau eats day tour! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My mom, (Mama Lau) has taken part on inspiring clau, especially the clau knot. I remember when I was a child, my mom and I would make Chinese knots on our free time. She had bought a book of Chinese knots and we pick a few to work on together and also a few intricate ones to challenge ourselves. In addition, I’ve always loved my mom’s cheong sam(長衫) or qi pao(旗袍) that had intricate Chinese knot buttons on them. Inspired by the traditional knot button, the clau knot in my vision is a modernized take on that traditional knot. I love the idea of being able to carry a part of your heritage and tradition with you everyday.

Website: www.claudesignla.com

Instagram: clau_designla

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/christinelau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/claudesignla

Other: food instagram: @claueats

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